A few weeks ago, the body of Belgium woman Debbie Maveau was found in Nepal. She had been missing for ten days and her body was eventually found in the Himalayas. This hit close to home. Debbie was my age, and traveling solo like myself and so many women I know.
I first read the article here and after scrolling down to read some of the comments I was disgusted but not particularly surprised:
- “TV advertising and travel progs have a lot to answer for in encouraging young women to “go -it -alone” in their “gap” year, etc.”
- “Why in God’s name why would young women go hiking alone in remote places? Their stupidity boggles the mind. Poor girl and I do feel for her parents but her actions were stupid.”
- “Are these women mad?”
- “Tragic result of feminism, women who think that their rights extend to all areas of the globe.. Sad end”
- “All the women who are independent …”
- “Methinx this gal watched too many Discovery Channel programs, BBC specials, etc and assumed all was well ‘cuz nobody on any of those telly programs is seen being attacked.”
- “Men hike around by themselves in strange places so women have to do it too. Its only fair, they have much more chance of getting in trouble but it doesn’t matter because we are all equal and everyone has to do exactly the same thing as the other. She had probably just come from the beard contest in LA…”
Let’s just be clear on a few points here: she was not raped, and she also wasn’t robbed. No one knows the motivation behind this attack, and locals are being extremely unhelpful to the Nepalese police. I’d also like to add that she was decapitated-I don’t know many men who would be able to survive an attack like that, so why so much criticism because she was a woman?
It makes me furious when people throw stones at women who travel alone. Thousands of men hike alone in the same place, and Zisimos Souflas, a 27 year old British tourist was also hiking in the Himalayas when he went missing in April.
As women, we have to be careful about who we talk to, where we park, where we walk, and how late we’re out alone on the street. We shouldn’t have our headphones up too loud when we run, and we must always be aware of our surroundings.
I have to think about where I park my car, and if that weird guy is harmless or could potentially do something that’ll put us both on the evening news. My clothes shouldn’t be too provocative, and I need to make sure I can see a drink being poured before it is given to me.
And these are all things we do instinctively. I remember being fourteen and being taught to never walk away and leave my drink alone. It’s drilled into us at a very young age that we need to keep ourselves safe.
We make critical decisions that could affect our safety every day, and when we travel we’re even more aware of potentially dangerous situations. And what 23 year old considers the possibility of being beheaded in the Himalayas?
Should we give up the idea of experiencing solo travel simply because we’re women? I don’t think so. Millions of women travel by themselves every year, and often find it a life-changing and rewarding experience. I love traveling solo, and I won’t let the fact that I’m a woman get in the way of me living life to the full.
Debbie knew the risks of hiking alone, and made the decision to go anyway. Some might say it was the wrong one, but it frustrates me to see people speculating, and assuming the fact that she was a woman alone had anything to do with her death. So let’s stop the stone-throwing and finger-pointing, and keep our thoughts with her family.